The funny thing is, all those high-profile bankers are treated like huge celebrities.
Let me begin by getting my personal Halloween rant out of the way. Halloween parties thrown by bored celebs in India, really bug me. This is a new thing. And has no context of any kind in our lives. This year, Mumbai/Delhi partywallas had gone completely overboard with the theme, and social media sites were filled with ghouls, devils, Frankensteins, Draculas and other ghastly creatures. “The Joker” remains a perennial favourite, but hey — how many people out there have watched the movie and figured out the character? Some of our lovelies (men and women) opted for vanity over staying true to the Halloween spirit. They chose to dress up like sexy French maids (they shunned our desi bais — who, I think, are far sexier), pole dancers, hookers, tarts, harlots... in other words, they were dressed to shock and seduce. This sort of role-playing makes perfect sense in New York, where Halloween has become a 365-day affair, with Donald Trump playing trick or treats with the American public. The number of skeletons ratting around in his closet are enough to spook the rest of the world, barring Vladimir Putin and that Kim chap from North Korea. Those two scary megalomaniacs can stage the world’s spookiest Halloween party, whenever they are in the mood for some fireworks, since nuclear missiles are the sexiest fireworks known to man.
Here in India, we have our own Halloween fans in the Cabinet. The games they have been playing over the past fortnight have frightened the daylights out of unsuspecting citizens. As if recognising the 10-headed Ravans in our midst is not enough, we have a new bunch of asuras and rakshasas, playing havoc with our economy. Since we are on the topic of money, and crimes committed by people in high places, it may be worth our while to learn a few lessons from America and how those guys are dealing with people such as Mr Trump’s former campaign chief Paul Manafort. His bête noir is a Marine Corps veteran called Robert Mueller, former FBI director for 12 long years. Those men are the spookiest! They make Dracula look like a harmless, blood-sucking leech. Given the crucial Russia probe, this man (Mr Mueller) has the power to unhinge Mr Trump, by going to the US House of Representatives with evidence of what are called “high crimes and misdemeanours”. With his indictment of Mr Manafort (“byzantine financial dealings” as the Daily Beast called it), lots of masala firings are on the cards. I am gobbling up these reports hungrily, and wondering if India will ever appoint someone like Mr Mueller to probe the multiple high crimes and misdemeanours corrupting and choking the system. Given all the “patli gullies” in our country, it is possible for virtually any crook with influence and a stash of serious money to get away scot-free, regardless of the crimes and misdemeanours committed.
There are so many detailed and well-researched investigations regularly shared over WhatsApp groups that aggressively pose tough questions but receive no response from the government. Agreed, some of these highly critical reports may be biased. But are they factually wrong? Agreed, a few are plants, mischievously circulated to defame certain individuals in positions of enormous authority. But are they accurate in what they are saying? Can the veracity of their charges be that easily dismissed? The latest missive I received asked an important question: Who bailed out the banks? The numbers quoted in this piece are mind-boggling (impossible for me to count the zeroes). But the issues raised are equally staggering. Why have we been so soft on the bankers who threw big money at known crooks? I asked one of these big daddies that question and he glibly answered: “We could not ignore calls from Delhi instructing us to loan those insane amounts to people with dodgy reputations.” Naively, I said: “But you could have refused!” The man laughed openly (“What is this woman saying? Is she crazy?”). He talked about the cost of saying, “No!” to powerful ministers and their friends. My point is if our banking system is this compromised, how can the average investor have any faith left? At the end of the day, the money being written off is our hard-earned money. And we have no say in this? If the government is using our money to bail out banks, should we not be demanding explanations?
The funny thing is, all those high-profile bankers are treated like huge celebrities. They are publicly feted, and privately courted. I have seen top businesspeople grovelling at their feet (literally) during events and awards’ shows. Nobody has dared to question their ethics or business practices, while the government is busy protecting them — at our expense! It will need one pink paper to publish an expose on a single, highly respected banker who has indulged in this awful deception. As soon as that head rolls, everything else and everybody else will automatically fall in line. But it will take major guts to nail the first culprit. Come on, someone, do it! Halloween is over. But fresh fireworks can always begin. Here... take this lit matchstick.